the image of self, the self's image

I remember the day well. It was hot. Bright sun Children’s voices. Pontllanfraith outdoor swimming baths. Wet cubicles. Warm grass.I was 10. Fumbling to get changed. Excited at the prospect of cool water on skin. I remember leaving the safety of the changing room clutching my towel around me. Into the white sunlight.Already body conscious, though we didn’t name it as such in the 70’s I knew I had to get into that azure pool as quickly as possible. unnoticed.slip in. breath. Too late. Towel ripped off. Vultures circling. “Fat Pat, Fat Pat. Look look” I remember feeling as if every single eye turn to stare at me. Blubber. Pale. Teetering.In hindsight probably a few bored teens. But, but. Those few words used mostly as they rhymed easily ,stayed with me, branded into my forehead, followed me around like a lost dog. It wasn’t just the words, it was the power they gave to those who wanted to appear stronger, tougher, harder. More names followed like football chants bleating in my head announcing my arrival at every PE lesson every football changing room, every…every. Unbeknown to those few boys they had unleashed a would be poet for i began to invent revenge speeches in my head. Huge swathes of glorious eloquent put downs ending with a punch and I would walk off into the sunset . Neither materialised but I had begun to feel the latent brutal power of words.

It took me 12 years before I felt confident enough to take my top off in public again. And even now, as a 54 year old father of three, I relive those hot minutes slightly out of breath. As Wordsworth said, “Vertigo recollected in tranquility”. Maybe, maybe.

So in this week of Mental Health Awareness it is important we share our stories, our sadnesses, those scars that haunt but also those strategies of our overcoming those words of hope. More later……



the map of life lived

touch the skin

shelterer of souls

savaged and ravaged

ripped and wracked

opened and weaved

a casket, a cave 

embroidered with blood and tears

I finger the scars

roads back to hope

paths to understanding

tissue torn 

marks that warn

the soft shiny skin of then

grown over , wrapped up

healed and sealed

snapped yet somehow still intact



elbow frozen since 1979

nervenumbed ankle

spine slashed open

plastic disc cushions the blows

the surgeon's slice

above L4 L5

the cut

that saved your life;


trace those lines creaking 

the angle of your neck


knitted together

wear them  with honour

to say

 I           have                  lived

veneers and crowns 

panic attacks

black eyes

fear instilled

darkness distilled

stitches in time

bandages, balms and cracks

mindfields of 


break ups



read the poems

etched across your body

the sentence of sentences

the doingness of verbs

the thingness of your body parts

spoke and shall speak

the eloquence of screaming

startles the old

and inspires the young

tell it as it is


that, that shall be enough

an archived survival manual

resilient routes etched into existence

I place my pulse

over this persistent patchwork

pause. Feel. 

it throbs like a sun adrift in a galaxy